You can implement sociocracy whether you are in a sociocratic organization or not. Organizations are composed of individuals, each of whom is responsible for creating an effective environment. By demonstrating that sociocratic practices result in more collaborative and inclusive groups, you also increase the possibility that sociocratic principles will be successfully implemented in your organization.
These small changes can make a big difference.
Sharon Villines, 2017
1. Expect Consent
Function as if consent is already the standard in decision-making.
When a decision is about to be made, before anyone can call for a vote or declare agreement, ask if there are any objections. If possible, glance at each person as an invitation to speak. If someone tries to dismiss concerns, say, “Let’s look at this for a moment.” Then help address concerns and clarify objections. Ask if anyone else can address them.
When unresolved objections remain, emphasize that a decision has not been made. Most small groups function by consent most of the time. With only one objection, however, they may avoid announcing a formal decision and then proceed as if one had been made. Break this cycle and state clearly, “Let’s not implement this until we have enough information to resolve this objection.”
2. Initiate Rounds
Instead of waiting for open discussion, begin rounds by asking, “What does everyone think? Mary?” and move around the room to each person.
Doing rounds can completely change the dynamic of a group because rounds:
- Establish equality in the room as each person is given time to speak
- Bring out comments from those who dislike competing for attention or feel their ideas are not important
- Prevent people from avoiding responsibility by being silent
- Enable everyone to avoid dominating the discussion
Suggest that two people with differing styles or opinions represent your group when approaching an authority or attending a meeting.
When two people represent a group as equals the process of representation is more likely to result in:
- A shift from personal opinion or benefit to collaboration and consultation on behalf of the group
- Consultation in a search for solutions rather than an autocratic decision
- Less likelihood of being co-opted with two listening
- More information being conveyed in both directions with the experience and training of two people present
4. Assign Tasks Using Discussion and Consent
Before anyone can volunteer, ask what the task or function requires and then directly ask one person who they think could fulfill those requirements. Convey the expectation that there will be more than one qualified person.
A volunteer may not be the best person for the job and the person who is may not volunteer. People often recognize abilities in others that others don’t see in themselves.
Self nominations are acceptable as long as they don’t preclude discussion of other possible candidates or consider the ability to fulfill the task requirements. One ability, however, is the desire to fulfill the task!
5. Actively Solicit Objections
After presenting an idea, welcome objections by asking, “Now how is this going to work? What’s wrong with it? Let’s make it better and get all the chinks out now.”
Resolving objections builds a stronger proposal. Don’t allow concerns and objections to slide away. Taking them seriously builds the commitment and focus necessary for collaborative decision-making and effective action. Even when an objection cannot be resolved, if it is thoroughly understood, everyone may be more willing to move forward and test the decision.
6. Resolve Objections in the Group, Not with an Individual
Treat the objection as an issue the group needs to resolve, not to convince only the objector. Treat objections as information, not as attempts to derail forward movement.
After the objection is clearly understood, address the objection in terms of the aim of the decision and the aim of the group. How does it affect the decision? How can the proposed decision be improved to resolve this objection? Then do a round asking the objector last if their objection has been addressed. If it hasn’t, use other means to resolve it. (See “Resolving Concerns & Objections.”)
7. Measure & Report
Build measurements into your decisions so you will know how they are working. Set a date for reporting and evaluating.
How will I know if this is working? When do I take a second look? How will I measure success? This doesn’t have to be complicated. Match measurement to the complexity of the decision. For personal decisions, it may be as simple as putting a mark on the calendar setting a date to remind yourself to consider how you feel about your decision. For complex tasks with financial repercussions, more data gathering will probably be necessary.
If no one else is assigned or the group doesn’t want to n to this, take initiative in recording and making the results available to everyone concerned — transparency builds trust and more information may be brought forward.
8. Encourage Self-Organization
Take control of your own responsibilities so you find solutions and grow personally and professionally. Ask questions of yourself and others that expect people to find their own answers, to be self-organizing and self-generating, producing organization and new ideas.
Self-organization is often discouraged in workplaces but there are usually small areas of responsibility and independence where you can take initiative, and often they are larger than you might think.
There may more freedom to self-organize in your personal life. A mother with four high-energy children and a husband who worked twelve hours a day woke up an hour earlier than the family to organize her day over a quiet breakfast. She took charge and generated a harmonious home by organizing the things she could control.
9. Self Education
Take responsibility for your own development, continuing to learn about life, about your work, and about your organization.
Keep up with your industry and develop beyond your job or responsibility. Define your professional and personal goals broadly, not just in terms of your job or neighborhood norms. If you work on a loading dock, find out how other organizations handle late shipments and transient employees. Watch changes in your company to understand the possible need for change. Design educational programs that reduce emergencies and increase productivity. Bring your colleagues along with you.
Develop your social and professional networks. Follow your dreams. This will create an environment of growth—not necessarily bigger, but deeper.
Sharon Villines is the author of thousands of blog posts and emails on sociocracy and cohousing, owner of Sociocracy.info, and coauthor with John Buck of We the People: Consenting to a Deeper Democracy, a Guide to Sociocratic Principles and Methods (Washington, DC: Sociocracy.info Press, 2007). For more information visit Sociocracy.info
Sociocracy for One is based on a document written in 2008 by Sharon Villines for the Sociocracy.info website titled “Sociocracy for the Individual.” Revised, 9 April 2014.
Sociocracy for One by Sharon Villines is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License. Based on a work at Sociocracy.info.
Sociocracy for one may be printed for personal, non-commercial uses and incorporated in or adapted for educational materials as long as the authorship and source is included in the text, and the educational materials are also shared under the same Creative Commons license.